(Click to enlarge.) IAEA's fact-finding team investigates the Fukushima Daiichi site. Photo credits: G. Webb/ IAEA
Nearly a year has passed since the unimaginable happened in Japan: a massive earthquake and tsunami claims the lives of more than 15,000 people and leaves thousands of others homeless; massive devastation occurs in the region’s communities; and an accident unfolds at the local Fukushima Daiichi nuclear energy facility. As we reflect on the events that occurred last March 11, the world demands to know: has the global nuclear industry learned and applied the lessons from the Fukushima Daiichi event to make nuclear energy facilities safer than they were before?
Unequivocally, the answer is YES.
While the U.S. nuclear industry pursues a strategy to add another layer of safety to address the major problem encountered in Japan— the loss of power to maintain essential cooling capacity—nuclear safety regulators and plant operators in countries around the world are applying lessons learned from Japan. New safety initiatives are shaping the future of nuclear energy at more than 440 operating reactors worldwide, as well as more than 210 reactors in the licensing and planning stages.
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Nearly a year after an earthquake and massive tsunami struck the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear energy facility in Japan, many U.S. experts still are in Japan assisting the recovery efforts.
The U.S. provided scores of radiation detectors and trained both the U.S. military and Japanese personnel on how to use them.
U.S. organizations with expertise and capabilities in nuclear energy mobilized quickly and offered critical help in the aftermath of the natural disaster on March 11, 2011. While some lent equipment and expertise, others responded with humanitarian aid for residents left homeless by nature’s destruction.
Radiation specialists from the Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory were among the first people on the ground in Japan. Experts from the lab’s Radiological Assistance Program (RAP), who are on call to respond to any release of radiological materials in the United States, took hundreds of radiation readings and collected soil samples in the region around the stricken Japanese plant.
The data and samples they gathered will assist Japan’s recovery and provide a more detailed understanding of the radiological aspects of the accident. The U.S. provided scores of radiation detectors and trained both the U.S. military and Japanese personnel on how to use them.
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February 13, 2012
5:41 pm EDT
- The New Jersey governor’s nuclear review task force, formed shortly after the accident at Fukushima Daiichi, has published a report that concludes: “Based upon the information provided by the NRC and the licensees, the task force members have a high level of confidence that New Jersey’s nuclear power plants are operating safely and have effective mitigation plans to address the lessons learned from the Fukushima incidents.”
- Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency has approved the results of “stress test” simulations on Ohi reactors 3 and 4 in Fukui Prefecture. The NISA report to the Nuclear Safety Commission says the tests demonstrate the reactors can withstand earthquakes and tsunamis as strong as those that hit the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. The final decision to restart the reactors rests with central and local governments. Last week, a team of International Atomic Energy Agency experts concluded that the tests met international standards.
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January 9, 2012
5:25 pm EDT
- New safety regulations proposed for Japan’s nuclear reactors would limit the operation of the plants to 40 years, Japan’s nuclear minister, Goshi Hosono, said. The government also is revising seismic and tsunami safety standards for facilities and emergency preparedness directives for local communities. The government will submit the proposed legislation to Parliament later this month.
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December 19, 2011
5:19 pm EDT
- The Fukushima Daiichi reactors are in “a state of cold shutdown,” with temperatures at the bottom of the reactor pressure vessels and containment vessels stably below the boiling point and radiation levels at the plant boundary below 100 millirem per year. (By comparison, the average radiation level from all sources to U.S. citizens is about 400 millirem per year.) The announcement last Friday by Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda is a key milestone in the site’s recovery plan, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Gregory Jaczko said on his first visit to the site since March.
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